Saturday, July 08, 2006

Book Excerpt: 6 ways to develop your listening skills

Listening is such a simple act. It does require us to be attentive, but we don't have to do anything else. We needn’t advise, coach, or even sound wise. All we have to do is sit and listen. Here are a few ways to develop better listening skills.

1. Be open. Two little words but such a huge task. Being open means forgetting everything you know about the person or the topic and listening with every sense you have, every atom of your attention.

2. Don’t be distracted. Give your full attention to the conversation. Don’t let your eyes wander if someone enters the room or passes by. Don’t answer your phone. Don’t even look at it. These are all signals to the other person that the conversation either is or isn’t important.

3. Be active. Listening seems passive because you’re just sitting there and no visible action is required. But listening is active. Let the ideas and thoughts play in your mind. Don’t hesitate to jump into the conversation without censoring yourself and before it’s too late.

4. Don’t interrupt. Resist the urge to say what you have to say as soon as it occurs to you. Make a note of your pressing thought if you need to, but don’t speak for the sake of speaking, or because you finally came up with something good. This won’t add to the conversation. It’s more likely to derail it.

5. Reveal yourself.
If you’re quiet by nature, you’ve probably been “accused” at one point or another of not saying anything about yourself. That’s one of the dangers of being quiet. But being a good listener doesn’t mean all you do is listen. A good listener also reveals information about him or herself which makes the other person feel more comfortable about opening up.

6. Ask unexpected questions. Don’t ask a question you think you know the answer to. Ask why? Or why not? Use unexpected questions to find out what makes the other person tick. You may get an unexpected response, which will take you on a different path.

These are just a few. Certainly you have a few listening skills that work for you. Please contribute them.

Excerpted from Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive (Career Press, 2006). Order your copy here.

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